Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simple Guitar Lessons With the Beatles

By Keith Dean

Once again, the music world has turned its attention on The Beatles. The new video game featuring the Fab Four and the re-release of the newly mastered Beatles collection have served to focus the spotlight back on the music of the boys from Liverpool.

As a guitar player, the study of Beatles songs could literally be a full time endeavor. A close listen to their music reveals a variety of influences in writing styles. Traces of blues, country, pop, early rock, middle eastern and classical can be heard in their tunes, and efforts made by guitar students - of any generation - learning Beatles songs, would be time well spent.

Lennon and McCartney were arguably one of the greatest songwriting duos in history. From the love songs of McCartney, to the prolific message oriented songs of Lennon - the pair have penned tunes that will go on to live for ages. In addition, George Harrison and Ringo Starr went on to become accomplished writers in their own right.

The beauty of the Beatles music lies largely in its simplicity. Even a new guitar player will quickly ascertain that the chord progressions of their songs are not typically overly complicated or hard to play.

But, although not difficult to execute, there were strokes of genius in the structure of their chord progressions. The fluidity from verses to choruses, and the interesting twists that bridges took - were at times, brilliant. And the brilliance resides in the absolute simplicity of it all.

Lyrically their songs followed the same course. Solid hooks with highly sing-able, and remember-able melodies permeated the Beatles early music. Even later, throughout the "psychedelic" years - as the progressions became more complicated, as songs took on multiple meters and rhythmic patterns (as though a number of songs were "pieced" together), and lyrics became more nonsensical - the overall theme always seemed to revert back to the "simple".

Guitar players of later generations that became fixated on speed and flash - influenced by the VanHalen's and the Yngwie's of the day - would be well served to take a deep breath and ingest the slow meanderings of George Harrison on the fret board.

His easy going, melodic solos were such a tasteful compliment to the simple chord progressions of Lennon and McCartney, that they often went un-noticed by the guitar playing community - and Harrison's style is still largely underrated and underestimated.

Guitarists and songwriters of all ages can learn some good lessons from the simplicity of the Beatles songs. The fact that their music is ageless, and as popular today as when it was first recorded, is a testament to the power and beauty of keeping things "simple".

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Keith Dean is founder of and a 30 veteran of stage and studio. He toured extensively as a road musician throughout the US and Europe, was a former lead guitarist for Jason Aldean and has shared stages with Little Big Town, Wild Rose, Winger, Confederate Railroad and more. He is a published songwriter, owned and operated a successful music store, and has instructed numerous students in guitar.

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1 comment:

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